Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

By David Gordon, President, Channel Marketing Group

COVID accelerated many distributors’, and manufacturers’, interest in investing in technology. Coincidentally, just before COVID, NAED released it’s Building a Connected Business report and NEMRA released its Rep of the Future report (if you are a manufacturer or a rep and your company is a NEMRA member, the report is free.) Technology was becoming “front and center”.

So, we’ve “evolved” from COVID and are in the “new normal”. The taste of technology, coupled with interest in eCommerce (search and buying) as well as automating processes given staffing challenges (and the horizon doesn’t look promising) has further piqued interest.

At the NAED SouthCentral there were a number of technology companies present. Many also attended IDEA’s eBiz. Some also attended the NAED Annual. And at the NAED Annual, one of the panel sessions was devoted to upcoming NAED initiatives to continue to bring technology to the forefront.

And then, in the past two weeks I’ve had a number of companies focused on rebates, SPA management, pricing and CRM reach out. Some focused on manufacturers, some on distributors. Interestingly they all talk about “decreasing margins” and how if companies spend money on their technology they’ll increase profitability (which then begs the question of what % of sales should a company spend, in its entirety, on technology? But that is for another day!)

Okay … the point. There are many areas to invest to offer new services, improve accuracy and improve productivity. Much of it should be done. Theoretically, if you did it all you’d be “transforming” your business. Reality is that you cannot do it all, especially at the same time, so this is really digital evolution. You need a roadmap (a strategy) for different parts of your business and you need to prioritize investments based upon a number of factors. This isn’t a wish list. It’s evaluating the current business, your business goals / vision / strategy and then prioritize because you need to first evaluate your infrastructure and seek “low hanging fruit.” You need some “wins” to generate confidence and an ROI.

In reality, technology is a process, and product, disruptor.

There is a “technology stack” that distributors, reps and manufacturers should aspire to. Not all are for everyone because it needs to correlate to your vision (NEMRA’s Strategic Advisory Council is working on this for reps).

With this, I was recently speaking with Kathleen Lewarchick, VP Marketing for xNgage. I had met her at the NAED SouthCentral and here company also attended IDEA’s e-Biz conference. Kathleen has worked in, and written, about B2B ecommerce for over a decade, helping distributors like Amazon Business and EIS, as well as manufacturers like PURELL Hand Sanitizer and Moen, through digital transformations and innovation growth opportunities. I was seeking to get more acquainted with her company. Additionally, I had a distributor call and ask about PIM consultants and wanted to learn more about their services. We then started taking about “digital transformation” in distribution, so I offered her the opportunity to be a guest columnist.

Digital Transformation Strategically Important for Long-Term Success

“At the recent NAED national meeting, leaders declared the strategic importance of digital transformations for long-term success. Why? Buyer trends show that electrical customers value online services and they also want to research and buy in different ways. Seller trends show that comprehensive websites enable buyers to self-serve, freeing up your salesforce to drive more business value. And technology trends show that procurement systems are getting smarter and increasingly automated.

Research on electrical buyers shows that “anytime self-service” (like invoice management, freight tracking, and skills training) can help buyers get jobs done on their own, which lets your salespeople focus on more complicated issues. When those simple online services are successful, trust is built, and then buyers and sellers can collaborate on more complex and high-value topics, like vendor-managed inventory and configure-price-quote capabilities.

For buyers, self-service is also great when coupled with predictive buying.  For example, repeat orders can be pulled into customized order guides to save time with purchasing.  But these guides also make it easier for your sales team to merchandise solutions that create add-on sales.  And if those repeat orders are cyclical, they can also be integrated into online services like auto-replenishment so that product arrives consistently when and where it is needed.  The benefit is ongoing, planned sales.

But in this era of supply chain calisthenics, isn’t an inside sales agent more effective at securing those hard-to-find items? Only sometimes. More often manufacturing and distribution rely on a “smart model” that uses deep and wide data sets to assign resources and optimize supply and demand.

It can be daunting to think about digital transformations. But the companies that ask themselves these four questions are aware of the buyer, seller, and technology trends, and are already on the journey:

  1. As buying patterns change, what is the cost to my business if I don’t further the digital journey?
  2. How do my customers use my website today and how would they like to use it in the future?
  3. How can I optimize value for both my buyers AND my sellers (including customer service?)
  4. Can we create competitive advantage with digital to both increase sales and decrease costs?

Some Digital Transformation Examples

In each of the scenarios below we show how electrical buyers and sellers are leveraging digital transformations today  … and in some cases other channels.

  • Contractor A buys from online retailers like Home Depot and Amazon as well as MRO distributors like Fastenal and McMasterCarr, and buys occasionally or buys heavily in specific categories
  • Contractor B buys online and through salespeople checking selection, pricing and availability of a specific category and is rewarded for same-day delivery if they meet a specific online basket size
  • Industrial Buyer A buys from and Automation Direct and uses these sites to check prices, download spec sheets, and perform product research
  • Industrial Buyer B uses one-stop services with a trusted online partner (you?) places one order to many locations, checks delivery details, and pays for the management of real-time inventory

Digital transformations can feel like a leap, but if planned wisely can create sustained value. And with the trends all heading toward digital integration, there’s no better time to make and accelerate your plan.”


A key component of this journey is keeping the customer in mind. If you are a manufacturer, you have 3-5 different types of customers to consider. Distributors have similar as they should be considering up-channel and down-channel.

Like anything, it all starts with a plan. Don’t like the term “transformation” scare you. It will be an evolution, but every company needs to be somewhere on the journey.

And recognize it is a journey because an investment in technology is analogous to investing into a boat.

There are two adages regarding boats:

  • You never stop investing into a boat once you buy it.
  • The two best days of a boat owner are when they buy a boat … and when they sell a boat. Everything in between involves moments of joy, moments of frustration and regular investments.

And if you’re interested in what BOAT, here’s some definitions:

  • Bust Out Another Thousand– slang describing how expensive boating can be.
  • Break Out Another Thousand– slang describing how expensive boating can be.


In-House or Managed EDI: How to Determine the Right Fit for Your Business

IDEA  EDIElectronic data interchange (EDI) is the most commonly used B2B eCommerce technology. Based on standards, this computer-to-computer exchange of business documents between trading partners increases efficiency while cutting costs by simplifying processes across the entire supply chain.

More documents are shared and processed in less time with greater accuracy, accelerating business cycles by up to 61% and reducing the number of transactions with errors by 30–40%.

For more information Go Here.




CEW-31-UNEnvironment-WorldAccreditation-400.jpgClimate change poses very real risks to people and the environment. Extreme weather events like the destructive storm we just saw in Ottawa that left thousands without electricity for days, and damaged homes and critical infrastructure, are a stark reminder that we must take action, now.

Countries around the world agree – achieving a more sustainable future is a top priority. Commitments like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the landmark Paris Agreement and the ISO London Declaration, bring nations into a common cause to undertake the ambitious efforts it takes to tackle one of our time’s most critical challenges.

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Selling ServicesBy David Gordon, President, Channel Marketing Group

As every distributor knows, there is a labor and driver crisis in every market. It affects hiring warehouse staff as well as drivers. Today’s competition for labor is further exacerbated by competitive environments that can pay $20 / hour plus benefits (aka Amazon and others.) Further, within the electrical industry, many electrical contractors are faced with their own staffing challenges.

Industries have talked about fee-based services and many industry leaders are seizing upon the opportunity to diversify their income stream, improve profitability AND add a valuable service to their customers.

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Eplan Elements CollaborationWhy Use Elements Collaboration

Elements Collaboration represents a new alternative to conventional Project Data Management softwares. It is is a low cost and effective alternative to your dedicated PDM. Here's why:

EPLAN is built from the ground up with features you value in a Project Data Management software. As such, it is faster and can be better integrated to your workflow. This means that you can potentially save on the cost of an additional software without sacrificing productivity.


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BirdRecently, Bird Construction Inc. was pleased to announce that it has been selected to lead the design and construction of a state-of-the-art, net-zero plant protein processing facility for Phyto Organix Foods Inc. in Strathmore, Alberta. The value of the progressive design-build contract is approximately $125 million.

Bird will lead the design and construction of the facility and the 3D connectivity to the processing equipment. The 100,000 square foot facility will be the first net-zero plant protein processing facility in North America, employing industry-leading technology solutions to recycle and reuse water, leverage low emission energy sources, and reduce overall energy consumption. 

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Statistics CanadaReal gross domestic product rose 1.1% in February, the largest monthly growth rate since March 2021. Inflationary pressure remained in April 2022, when the Canadian Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 6.8% year over year, a slight increase from March 2022 (+6.7%).

After surging by nearly 340,000 in February, employment rose by an additional 73,000 in March as Omicron-related restrictions eased, and was little changed in April. After reaching a record low of 5.3% in March, the unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage points to 5.2% in April.


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Become a Wiser Approved Installer

SchneiderGet access to exclusive benefits, product discounts and resources that will help you drive more business, and lower energy bills for your clients.



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AD and TORBSAAD and Torbsa Limited are announcing an agreement to merge the two groups. The merger is expected to close July 1, 2022. Established in Ontario in 1966, Torbsa is a shareholder-owned group made up of twenty-seven independent building supplies distributors, with 48 locations across Canada.

Rob Dewar, president of AD Canada, discussed how Torbsa's strong leadership and financial success made the buying group an ideal match for AD. Rob Dewar, president of AD Canada, discussed how Torbsa's strong leadership and financial success made the buying group an ideal match for AD.


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AimliteAimLite is proud to announce that its Products Warranty has been awarded certification by the National Lighting Bureau’s (NLB) Trusted Warranty Program. The NLB Trusted Warranty Program recognizes excellence in lighting companies that meet objective quality standards and practices regarding their warranty administration.

In order to obtain that certification, AimLite was assessed based on five criteria: formal warranty process, warranty language, length of business/warranty insurance, technical evaluation, and claims review evaluation. By complying with the five evaluation criteria, AimLite clearly demonstrates its commitment to providing quality products and services to its customers.

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Franklin Empire Inc., the largest independently owned electrical distributor in Canada, and MONTONI are excited to launch the construction of the company’s new headquarters designed to support future growth. This family-owned 4th generation company is also celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. In summer 2023, Franklin Empire employees will move into their new facility of nearly 190,000-square-feet, conveniently located along Autoroute 40 at the junction of Autoroute 13 in Saint-Laurent and close to the Ericsson and VSL campuses developed by MONTONI. The building, which will be targeting a LEED certification, will triple the firm’s warehouse space and double its office area, while improving the customer experience and providing employees with a work environment adapted to the new reality of today’s job market.

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Hultberg’s vast industry experience includes developing and executing strategies and aligning complex operations to achieve sustainable business growth. Before joining S&C, Hultberg was the senior vice president and managing director of the high-voltage business for North America at Hitachi Energy (formerly ABB Power Grids). Hultberg’s 27-year career with ABB provided him with a variety of operational experience in production, operation, marketing, sales, and R&D. He also held numerous ABB leadership roles across the world, including the past nine years in Canada.

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Larry SternThe Industry Data Exchange Association, Inc. (IDEA), the electrical industry-endorsed technology service provider and eBusiness standards body, announces its 2022 Board of Directors. Larry Stern, President of Standard Electric Supply, is the IDEA Board Chair for the coming year.

“Larry’s experience and strong leadership are a driving force to tackle industry challenges and pursue IDEA’s roadmap. Today, with the increasing complexity and the increasing volume of data that needs to be exchanged, IDEA is focused on our mission to facilitate the exchange of complete, high-quality transactional and eCommerce product content and serve as the standards body for the electrical industry.” said David Oldfather, President and CEO of IDEA.

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